For me, the first few weeks of the year have always been a special time to stop, reflect and reset for the year ahead. A time to make those New Year’s resolutions or simply recommit to goals made earlier.
This year has been different, as like most of us, my family and I have sat in shock and mourning as large parts of our country continue to burn. It’s been a sombre beginning to a new year as we read the news and hear of lives lost, volunteers stretched and communities devastated.
But amidst the rocky start to the new year (I also had an accident, broke a finger and had surgery), it has still been a time of deep reflection, of prayer and of searching. With my wife, drinking coffee or walking on the beach, I’ve been reviewing the past year, looking ahead to the coming 12 months and asking: what needs changing? What practices or decisions do we need to grow in to be more faithful to what God has called us to? And how can we go deeper in our faith and justice journey this year?
It is a theme the Apostle Paul picks up on again and again in his teaching, including in Romans 12:1-2;
Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
So how do we take our everyday life and present it to God as worship? How do we live more deeply + meaningfully in a way that also reflects God’s love for our world?
Here are six ideas to reflect on:
1. Renew your mind.
Let’s start with one of the most obvious, yet one that I think we are all so guilty of overlooking – studying the Bible. It could be reading on your own or in a small group discussion. What is critical is that we are carving out time and space to engage in scripture, to ask God to speak into our lives and into the situations of suffering and injustice in our world at the moment.
There are so many great resources out there to access, including personal devotional material, podcasts or video series. So why not make a commitment in 2020 to go deeper into God’s word?
TEAR has a beautiful art, prayer + reflection series starting for Lent, along with a small group bible study resource. Sign up for it here
2. Find community
When we become concerned about the state of the world and how we can make a difference, sooner or later we will discover that we can’t change it on our own. Making the world more just is ultimately God’s work, not ours. ‘You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it’ is a really useful phrase to remember. To do this you need to work alongside others.
So, if you find yourself on your own trying to change the world, stop! Instead, find at least two others who share your passion, your concern, your hunger and thirst for justice.
Start by seeking out others in your church or friendship circles who share these concerns. You can also connect with organisations (like TEAR!) that are set up to support you to respond to the needs of the world.
3. Work out where your treasure is.
We are all really good at speaking about our heart for ‘this cause’, or ‘that issue’. Yet the question we need to ask ourselves and that Jesus puts before us in Matthew 6:21 is – ‘do we have skin in the game?’, do we back up our words with actions? Jesus’ words speak to the reality that two things really testify to what we prioritise: how we spend our money and what we do with our time. Are we investing our time and money to make a difference with what we say we care about, or is there a disconnect between our heart and our actions?
January is the perfect time to do a bit of an audit on both of these. For many of us, large parts of how we spend our time and money are fixed, we haven’t got much wriggle room, yet outside of those things, what shapes our decisions about what we invest in?
4. Make space for others.
Hospitality is at the heart of God’s character and has been a core discipleship practice of Christians over the course of the last 2000 years. Christian hospitality is about consciously and practically making room for others, especially those on the margins: the lost, the stranger, the other.
Hebrews 13:2 reminds us that when we practice hospitality, we may be ‘entertaining angels’. Our family has continually discovered that in doing so, we end up receiving far more than we ever give. Over the years, our practice of this has varied as we have moved through the seasons of life; from having those struggling with homelessness and addiction living with us, to providing a room for people needing a weekend retreat or taking a meal over to a lonely neighbour. The challenge is to make space because you never know who might show up.
Whether you live in the city, or in a regional area like me, there is nothing like connecting with nature to restore the soul as well as teach us lessons about restoration and care. Even sowing some herbs in a pot on your verandah connects you to cycles of life and creation and can teach you so much about caring for our earth.
As we reflect on creation and nature in a season of bushfires and growing concern about our climate, let’s also consider our own footprint on the beautiful earth God has created for us.
Take some time to pray about how we can respond to the growing call to care for God’s creation. What are some simple steps you can take in your own life to reduce your impact on the earth? Maybe you could start by making a list of 10 things you could commit to this year. It could be swapping to green energy, using a reusable cup, praying or writing letters to your MP. Share with a friend to keep yourself accountable!
If we can allow ourselves the freedom to disconnect from our phones and ‘be still’, Psalm 46 reminds us that God shows up in those moments! This year, I encourage you to find your still place, and spend time there listening to God. This isn’t easy, trust me I know. I think as a culture we seem to be getting worse at this. So you need to set some goals and remember what this quiet time is for – waiting on God.
Being still, praying, meditating etc can take on a variety of forms, from the times of prayer and silence each day, to weekly ‘Sabbath’ days – resting from screens, work and business to longer breaks throughout the course of the year, the central concern is to stop, to listen and be attentive to God’s voice and to be reminded that it’s not all up to us.
Again, take some time at the start of the new year to set some goals, carving out the time, because once the year is in full swing, making changes becomes much harder.